Soft as a Feather
January 2, 2022
It’s 7:30 AM, the morning after Christmas and most of the world around me is still asleep. The sun is about to peek over the horizon, the temperature is just above freezing and there’s a very light breeze from the east/southeast. The only birds nearby are the crows behind me and some ring-billed gulls diving and chasing each other across the cove. In the distance I hear the noise of the geese that roost a half mile or so down the lake.
Sitting on the rocks, I notice a feather floating towards me. I take a few photos as it runs up into the rocks nearby.
Then I notice another feather. I look a little further out and realize there are more feathers coming my way.
The sun is rising now, creating colors in the gentle waves and it appears the feathers are riding on the stream of light from the rising sun, as if they are literally being created by the combination of sunlight and water.
The feathers come slowly but surely, one appearing just as another rests up against the rocks or floats past. The pace picks up and at one moment I count 20 feathers I can see looking out towards the sunrise.
I continue to photograph the feathers and feel the warmth of gratitude rise within for this beautiful gift. For another thirty minutes the feathers continue to float in.
Large feathers. Tiny feathers. Right side up. Upside down. Some surrounded by bubbles that are lit up from the sun like tiny Christmas lights. I stop to take in how astonishing this moment is. I can’t remember ever seeing a feather float in from a source I can’t see or identify at reasonably close range in all the years I’ve been doing this. Not one. Today there are dozens.
The conditions had to be just right. Wind from the east is very uncommon here. The wind and water current just right to float the feathers and not toss them to the shore or drag them under. These feathers have likely floated a half mile up the lake without getting stuck on the shore or drifting into a cove. Just. Right.
Equally as astonishing is how I came to be sitting here at this exact moment to witness this stream of feathers. This lake didn’t exist when I was born. I didn’t pickup a camera until I was in my forties and even then it took me a while to venture out in the early morning let alone in the cold. The likelihood of me being here at this time in this place just a few years ago would have seemed to be zero. And yet here I am.
I think of that line, “…of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…” from Casablanca. Even our presence here - or the presence of feathers - defies the odds. When I stop in this moment of wonder to think of all the things that had to come together to create this experience, I feel overwhelmed with awe, wonder and gratitude.
I have noticed feathers floating on the water for a few years now, always feeling they have a special place for me as messengers from spirit. They sometimes show up in my dreams this way. In November I created a logo of a feather floating on the water. Now here they are, leading me directly into the new year.
The power of softness to ride the currents of life. The grace of vulnerability. The warmth of a light touch. The protection of downy feathers against the elements. The power to lift and navigate the air with grace. The ability to surf the waters without becoming submerged. Feather as pen, moving words into the world.
In her New Year newsletter writer Ann Friedman said, “We are battle-worn. Our bodies and souls are softer….We've lost a lot of things we thought were core to our identities, and yet here we are… still us. Just more tender, more open, more ready.”
Tenderized by the pulverization of the last two years, I carry the feathers with me into 2022 and wait to see how it unfolds.
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